Thursday, October 22, 2009

{Featured!} Must see: November Issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine

Yesterday my husband, Vinny, came home from the grocery store with a surprise for me. He had a big smile on his face and a plastic bag about 3 inches thick in his hands.

"I got you something" he said with an especially cute smile and handed it to me.

The bag sort of melted in my hand--square, but curving at the edges the way a small pile of magazines will do.

Eeeeeeee! Squeal of delight! I knew what it was immidiately: the November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine featuring "Custom Made" artisans and a two page spread of yours truly! :)

I don't mean to geek out or brag, but I just have to say that I am a little bit giddy with excitement. I can't help it. I'm excitable when it comes to being featured in glossy publications. Especially good ones! :)

I immidiately took one of the magazines out of the bag, circled the living room a couple times and then sat down in a chair next to the window. I was about to go straight for the article, but decided to torment myself and savor the moment as long as possible. I opened the magazine to page 1 and looked at every single page until I got to page numero 56...which is when I started ooooing and awwwwing and giggling like a maniac over the beautiful layout and my incredibly gorgeous Chesapeake love, Louie: front and center. What's not to love?! He glows! He's practically levitating in the foreground and there's me in the background...glowing, too! And that's exactly how this work makes me feel. Thank you to the photographer, Stephanie Colgan, for capturing that very deep and wonderful feeling.

The article, written by the fabulous Christy DeSmith is absolutely incredible. I moved from the living room window to the kitchen where I read it out loud to Vinny (and any dogs and cats that might listen). Louie, like a giant piece of Velcro, pressed up against my leg the entire time while Ella, our youngest pup, raced circles on the couch behind us. If a family can morph into one huge smile then, in that moment, that is exactly what happened to us. It is an absolute honor to be featured among such hugely talented artists of the Minneapolis area.

Here's to supporting the arts. Thank you, Mpls St. Paul Magazine!

May all dogs be happy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Snake medicine.

{I like this image because , as we all know, fear loses
it's power when one looks directly into its eyes.

There's one thing I've always been afraid of and that's snakes. As a matter of fact, my very first memory as a young girl is of accidentally running over a garter snake with my tricycle. I remember the sun, the perfectly green grass, and the absolute focus of my journey from Point A to Point B. I was, what you might call, "in the zone," lost in my travels, a pedaling adventure between Clara's garden and the house. I remember the absolute fear that coursed through my body as I saw my front tire bump right over the top of that fine, slithering body and the lightening speed with which I climbed to the top of Clara's head (well, at least as far as her shoulders). Clara, bless her soul, a tiny woman whom my siblings and I adopted as an extra grandma, stayed calm the entire time. I even remember the sweetness of her smile as she peeled me off her head and assured me that there was no reason at all to be afraid.

Despite many noble attempts, I have never been able to overcome my fear of snakes. It seems to be a fear I was born with--and is, in my humble opinion, a fear that any intelligent creature SHOULD be born with. Gah. Of course, living in the country comes with its fair share of snakes. That is to be expected. And, luckily, in Minnesota none of the snakes living here are poisonous (but that's beside the point).

Earlier today, I posted a comment on Facebook proclaiming that I was going to FREAK out if I saw one more snake basking in the sun outside my studio door. Now that the weather has gotten cold and then warm again...oh my good god, they are out in hoards, storing up as much sun for the winter as they can. I can't blame them for that. And, actually, if I wasn't afraid of them, I might even think that they look quite stunning. They are graceful and quick. The bigger, older ones seem to possess an intelligence that I even respect.

But when they are laying right across the metal strip of the threshold of my studio door, warming themselves in the crack of the concrete between inside and out, and along the sun-warmed front of my studio, there they lay. Well...this is just about enough to push me over my snake-fearing edge. When they crawled under the door not once, but three times in one day (yesterday)....oh, bloody hell, that is just about more than I can stand! (ps. today none have made it that far--thank god).

And, yet, I get the very clear feeling that they are not attempting to stay in here. They have no interest in making a home in my studio, rather they are just trying to find some temporary warmth before falling asleep for the winter in whatever warm earth den they call home.

A couple of wonderful friends suggested that I look into what the Snake might have to teach me. After all, there is often a reason that things show up in our lives. I couldn't agree more and, after a little bit of reading, learned that "Snake arrives when we are moving toward change, and need to let go of a part of our old self....prepare to shed something in favor of something greater and better." And Tanaya shared with me this link.

My first reaction to the idea of more change was the desire to throw a temper tantrum. You know, one that goes like this: "But I don't wwwwaaaaaannnaaaa change anymooooore!" After all, this past year has felt like nothing BUT change! The notion of change has sort of lost its shiny luster for me and, as I was driving to the store, I began to realize that although I once used to equate change to excitement and adventure, I've now started to equate to pain and emotional/physical/mental discomfort. It's no wonder I'm no longer welcoming it into my life! I find myself whining: Can't things stay the same for just a little bit?!

haha! Yeah, right.

OK, Snake. In the moment of realizing what was holding me back from change (that is, fear of more discomfort), I decided that I'm going to start over. After all, there ARE plenty of things that I am more than ready to change about my life. Some things are actually causing a helluva lot of pain and discomfort in staying the same. Especially my work to income ratio and my relationship with time (among other things, I'm sure). Snake Medicine also teaches about intuition, creativity, transmutation, and the energy of wholeness. Hmmm...not all bad. This is something I can work with.

I still can't say that I like snakes--or even that I plan to anytime soon. But ever since returning home I've decided that every time I step over the threshold of my studio, it is an opportunity to face my fears and grow past them. The snake is just a metaphor. I step through the door and, each time, find myself returning to the words: Be Brave. Two years later and I'm still living those words every single day. Damn those words. They are good.

You see, there is power living inside of this studio. Great amounts of beautiful, heartfelt, loving power. And by power, I mean Inner Power. The kind of stuff that causes me to glow. The sort of power that lets me know, without a doubt, that in this very moment, I am living my life's purpose; I am doing my best and truest work. The way I feel when I'm painting or creating is worth stepping over any number of snakes.

Snake is fire medicine. It has vitality and intelligence. It is protective, healing, acutely intuitive and it's movements lack resistance. These days, I desire to find a way to allow my passion to take better care of me (and visa versa). You know the quote by Albert Einstein: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Well, I'm going to believe that the Snake is showing up in my life (REPEATEDLY!) to jar me out of old patterns. Every time I step into my studio or back into the world outside, I make a conscious decision in the direction of Bravery and new thinking.

Instead of representing fear, what if I give Snake the power to represent Change? And what if I decide to no longer equate Change with negative experiences? How about if, this time around, Change means something GOOD and, in this way, gives Change the power to mean that awesome things are coming my way? What if I allow Snake to become a reminder for me to use a new way of thinking and acting? Think new, create new.

OK, Snake, be my teacher. I am, after all, more than ready for the next leap.

Image credits: http:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whooot! Watch for me in the November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine!

Out soon! The November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine is all about custom made. And guess who's included!

Keep another eye on my shop. Great new products are on their way!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy Diet :: Desire

The Next Chapter :: The Joy Diet (chapter 3):
Never mind that I'm a week behind.

I just wrote half a blog post when my little cat, Viscosa, came and sat on my computer and managed to turn the power off. It's just as well because all I had written was a bunch of nonsense about how intensely hard I've been working and how exhausted I am beginning to feel. You know, the old story.

But that's not what I really came here to write about. I came here to write about Desire. I wasn't able to post last week because I was in the final days of preparation for a big art show opening. It swallowed me whole and then I got swallowed a little bit further by travel (read more about animal rescue and puppy adventures) and then the aftermath of being too busy to keep up with things for too long.

And this is where I've been spit out. On a Friday morning in the middle of October with dogs waiting to be walked and a heavy layer of mist outside my window. It has led me to my very first day off in over a month (the last time being only because I was too sick to carry on). It's fairly ridiculous what a big deal it is for me to be taking today off. You have no idea what a mental leap it was for me to put my foot down and say NO MORE, for just one day, NO MORE. I am, after all, my own schedule maker. If you think it is all bliss and candy being able to work from home or to be a full time artist or to follow your dream or whatever it is...think again. Living this life takes some pretty heavy-duty amounts of determination. It also requires knowing when to stop--which, apparently, is not one of my talents. I am aware of the insanity of this pattern, but have yet to find a way to break out of it.

And so...for the past week I have been thinking about Desire. My thoughts usually begin when running errands or on my way to a photo shoot in the city. Shortly after turning down County Road 1 (an especially beautiful road flanked by fields and bright colored forests and rolling hills), I ask myself what I desire and, this past week, each time, my answer comes back the same. I just need a break. And before I even get half way through that thought I feel the sting of tears and a heavy sort of hopelessness. I know that is the exhaustion talking. Because giving myself a break would be easy. But what I really desire is to be able to take a break without having a mountain of work pile up on the other side of it. As I drive, I attempt to follow this string of desire to a solution, but my brain starts to feel cloudy; it bumps and skids a little; I feel an ocean of tears start storming in my belly. This is about the time when I become keenly aware that something needs to change...and soon. My desire for a whole day or weekend or evening of simply "being" rather than "doing" is so deep that I can feel it all the way through my bones and into the earth.

Letting myself get tangled up in this thought of wishing for some downtime never gets me anywhere. The wishing makes hopefulness grow cloudy. And so I take a nap and dust out the cobwebs. I start over and remind myself that starting over is something I need to do on a regular basis.

I admit that I have not yet even finished reading this past week's chapter ("Creativity"), but am savoring the question: What will help me to obtain my heart's desire? This is an action oriented chapter. I'm good at action. Unfortunately, I'm a little toooo good at it and so I proceed with caution. I tweak the question to go more like: What can I do to help me obtain my desire that won't just make more work for myself?

My desire is to make enough money that I don't have to work myself to the bone just to have enough to barely get by. My desire is to set myself up to get paid more and work less. My desire is to occasionally take a weekend or evening off just to do something else or nothing at all. My desire is to learn how to create free time and then not jam pack it full of more to-do's. My desire is to live a little bit more sanely and feel a little less exhausted in the process. I desire time off without worrying what kind of hellacious work load will await me on the other side. This is a simple desire, right?

I am ready to start living my new story. My new story requires creative thinking...and this kind of thinking requires one simple ingredient: rest. Right now I'm going to do just that.

Never mind that it took me all day to write this post. I got distracted. Distraction was bound to happen. It's a process. I feel awkward, but am baking a pie. Morning turned to evening...and now that the day flew by I think I'll go back to bed with my book. I obviously need practice when it comes to chilling out.

For now: more rest. Creativity coming soon.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Truth and the Fine Art of "Don't Know Mind"

The Next Chapter :: The Joy Diet (chapter 2):

ok, ok, ok...I admit: I struggled and fought and wound myself up in a few uncomfortable corners with this chapter. I don't know how or why this happened except that I let monkey-crazy-rat mind take over. It talked itself into a messy little knot and made me a bit miserable in the process. How do I feel? What's the story I'm telling? Is it true? Dear god. I love these questions. But holy hell. Not this week. This week I did not love these questions. I did not even like them. It took an entire week to finally realize (this morning) that, all along, the questions, although maddening, have actually been working their magic in a slow, silent sort of way.

The time in between, well, there were other moments of complete and absolute contentment. Such as stopping (yes, actually stopping) to take in the many colors of a maple leaf while walking out in the woods. Then I noticed how that single leaf connected to a branch and how the branch connected to more leaves, connected to a tree, connected to other trees, connected to the sky, connected to the blue beyond, connected to the pond, connected to the grass, connected to the tree...and back again. I attribute the ability to even stop and notice these things at all to last week's practice of "Nothing." Amazing. Nothing continues to amaze me. I like "nothing." No, I luuuuuv nothing. I also find moments of perfect happiness/joy/contentment on the walk between the house and my studio. It takes all of approximately 40 or 50 steps and, in that time, I become aware of everything: the sky, the temperature, the coffee cup in my hand, the moon or sun, misty skies or blue, my body, mood, feet, hair, state of being, breath, the dogs, a glisten of light on the pond, a paw print, the movement of air, my beating heart.

There is joy in noticing these details. I blink in disbelief that I have a life that allows me to walk between my house and the studio. Every day. Morning, mid-day, evening...and even in the middle of the night.

But, many times this week, trying to figure out Truth got in the way of joy. To be honest, Truth was turning out to be a down-right joy wrecker. I spent many of my days going round and round on a few things that have been bothering me and coming up with new ones in the stupid, horrible process. In short, I was ruining otherwise beautiful days with my own Truth inquiries and ridiculous thought patterns.

Anyway, this morning I had a very profound and wonderful realization that the world around me is actually perfectly NEUTRAL. It's ME (my brain, thoughts, actions, words) that causes conflict, confusion, insecurity, distrust, hurt feelings, anger, inner turmoil...and all the other useless emotions that seem to have been paying me visits as of late. It's in, NOT the world around me. Not this person or that person or that organization, but me. It took an entire week of having ridiculous arguing matches and stupid, endless conversations in my brain to finally realize that the only constant in any given situation is myself. It's me that is wrapped up in my situation, my stories, my dilemmas. No one else really cares.

And so that, my friends, is realization Numero Uno.

But there is a second part to "Truth"...and that is the difference between the stories we tell ourselves and another very important something called "Intuition." Chapter 2 has caused my philosophical brain to go a bit nuts, but please bear with me. My question is this: How do we know the difference between a story that we tell ourselves and simple, legitimate INTUITION? Which leads to another question: What is intuition in the first place?

Intuition. To be intuitive. This is something I value. I value intuition. It is something that exists not just in our tangible realm, but the psychic realm as well (oh boy, this could get deeper than I feel like delving in one lil' blog post). Intuition is the ability to read energy, to be aware of a flash of insight, and to simply be in tune with the moment, minus the clutter. BUT what if we let our stories get mixed up with what we think is intuition when really it is just our crappy old baggage weighing us down unnecessarily? And how do we know when to take our intuition seriously so that we don't have to live through a crappy experience only to say to ourselves in the end: "oh, I should have just listened to my intuition!"

See where I'm going with this?

Martha Beck points out that to not know (or to be unable to know) the Absolute Truth can be really, really uncomfortable. But it can also be very deliciously liberating. We are at the mercy of our ongoing experiences, but what we make of those experiences is truly up to us. She reminds us that "[o]nce we begin living with the full awareness of our basic fallibility, we can regain what Buddhists call the 'don't know mind,' the alert, receptive mental state that makes us capable of genuine perception." And that, my friends, is the place where sacred intuition lives. Yes, it's a fine line, isn't it--and I think it's safe to say that plenty of "Nothing" is required to keep a clear head in the matter.

Which leads back to being NEUTRAL. Right. This is a good lesson to learn. Returning oneself to neutral territory allows one to notice things like colorful maple leaves. It causes us to notice our body mid-step as we balance a too-full cup of tea as we walk across the driveway on a wet and windy day. Neutral is good. Neutral simply notices things. Neutral keeps us out of danger without creating unnecessary drama in the process.

Wow--and so I will just say that this was a very tough week of Joy Dieting. I am glad, however, that I stuck with it and didn't give up with the almost justifiable excuse: "I'm too busy for this."

It took awhile to get there...but something finally clicked. Sure, I still have a lot to figure out, but what I can say is that this week I got one step closer to myself. Today monkey-crazy-rat mind finally got a rest.

And, believe me, the silence has been golden.